Protein; the real pros and cons

The body needs protein to build muscle, which is why bodybuilders eat protein-rich diets featuring foods like chicken breast, cottage cheese, fish and beans. However, it can often be easier and quicker to drink a milkshake topped up with protein powder – it’s simple and takes seconds to prepare. Here are some of the other pros and cons of protein powders:

Protein shakes can be transported easily to the gym for workouts

After exercise it’s essential that the body is refuelled with a mixture of carbs and protein to aid recovery and boost muscle development. It’s great if you can get that fuel through protein-rich snacks but the reality is that it can be tricky to carry a cooked chicken breast and a sweet potato to the gym. A protein shake (that also includes carbs) is better suited for many busy people who need a quick hit of protein to enhance their endurance and energy levels.

Whey powder is fast-acting

Protein powders made of whey protein are absorbed quickly by the body, helping to deliver amino acids more effectively to the muscles. That leads to a better workout and a swifter recovery.

It’s easy to monitor how much protein you’re ingesting

If you’re eating plenty of natural protein it may be the case that you don’t require extra protein from the shakes – a gram of protein per pound of body weight should be more than enough to encourage muscle growth when combined with exercise. Your activity level will also determine how much protein your body needs to build muscle.

However…Protein powder is a supplement not a whole food

You shouldn’t rely on protein powder alone to meet your body’s dietary needs. Foods like beans and pulses that are protein rich also contain essentials like fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients that a healthy body requires.

Don’t go overboard

Overdoing it on a protein supplement can cause damage to the kidneys, which have the job of metabolising the body’s waste products. Too much protein can also leave the body dehydrated and, in extreme cases, increase the risk of developing kidney stones and gout.

Protein from natural foods does the same job as protein powder

Animal proteins and even vegan proteins, such as brown rice, fermented soy products and hemp, are just as good as protein from a powdered source. However, they can be harder to find and take more time to prepare than a shake.

A balanced diet combining plenty of natural protein sources plus protein supplements makes the recipe for enhancing training and boosting muscle mass.

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